Americans in several cities across the country will be getting a crash course on the history of Latinos this year courtesy of John Leguizamo’s one-man Broadway show, “Latin History for Morons."
Leguizamo is embarking on a North American tour this summer, starting on July 9 in Durham, North Carolina that has been extended until the beginning of winter. The show aims to entertain and educate theatergoers — in Leguizamo's comedic style —on the contributions of Latinos throughout American history and debunk some of the stereotypes associated with Hispanics.
His show earned him a Special Tony Award in 2018.
“We’re the second oldest native ethnic group in America after Native Americans... We fought in every single war America has had,” the Emmy and Tony-award winning actor said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Monday.
Leguizamo began his journey into Latinos' place in U.S. history after his son was bullied in school, an experience he shared growing up in his native Jackson Heights neighborhood, in the Queens borough of New York City.
“I started to think why people feel comfortable disrespecting us in a way that’s just not normal or natural,” Leguizamo told NBC News in a previous interview. “And I started to think that it's because our contributions aren't in history textbooks.”
One of his most surprising discoveries is that of General Bernardo Galvez from Spain, who Leguizamo describes as the “George Washington of Texas, Louisiana, and Pensacola.” Galvez commanded an army comprised of Puerto Ricans, Cubans and Mexicans during the Revolutionary War.
“He sent $70,000 worth of weapons to George Washington,” Leguizamo said during his appearance on Morning Joe. “He financed the [American Revolutionary] war too. We’re like the sons and daughters of the American Revolution as well."
Leguizamo found himself empowered through his own academic explorations.
“I was the one who started to learn all this information,” Leguizamo said. “And I will never feel like a second-class citizen in this country ever again.”
Leguizamo, who is of Colombian and Puerto Rican heritage, has a long resumé of performing one-man shows that often revolve around the actor’s personal life experiences. “Latin History for Morons” is no different, though but a bulk of the production focuses on historical events.
Most recently, Leguizamo has drawn praise for his performance in the Netflix hit series “When They See Us,” directed by Ava DuVernay.
He plays the role of Raymond Santana Sr., the father of one of the Latino and black teens who became known as the Central Park Five after they were convicted for a brutal rape in New York’s Central Park in 1989. After prolonged interrogations, most teens made false confessions and served between seven to 14 years before the actual rapist confessed to the crime; the teens were exonerated in 2002. Subsequent records showed prosecutors knew that DNA evidence did not match the teens.
Leguizamo describes the experience of playing Santana Sr. as difficult, knowing that Santana Jr. was innocent. While acknowledging the father’s lack of understanding of the judicial system, Leguizamo stressed the importance of obtaining legal representation in a criminal case.
“You’re done once you sign that paper — the takeaway is get a lawyer and don’t sign anything. That’s the lesson, everybody," said Leguizamo. "Get a lawyer and don’t sign anything you didn’t do.”